License to Date

By: Susan Hatler

Chapter One

I shouldn’t have sent out the wedding invitations. So obvious—now. The only upside? I’d chosen exquisite paper and Bickley Script font for the cancellation notices. Humiliating, but classy. According to my mother, good taste improved any situation. It was a motto she lived by, and I’d followed suit.

Always the good girl, that’s me.

Unfortunately, the bridal boutique where I bought my wedding dress had a no returns policy. I’d chosen an off-the-shoulder chantilly lace trumpet gown that would never go out of style. Not that I’d ever wear it after what Paul DeWitt put me through. So I sold it online for a fifty-percent loss, which was a bummer.

Being married to a lying, cheating, slimeball would’ve bummed me out more, though.

Since my mom had raised me to control my emotions, I’d kept it together—at least on the outside. In private, I bawled my eyes out for two months straight.

Paul had called me for the first few weeks pleading with me to forgive him. He’d admitted cheating on me but said it had been early in our relationship. And if he had known she was my sister then he never would’ve dated her. Hard to believe he’d thought that apology would win me back. I’d grossly overestimated his intelligence.

That had been four months ago.

Now, I’d just closed escrow on a ranch-style house located on the Sacramento River—boo-ya! Unfortunately, my new home looked like the eighties had thrown up in it. The remodel overwhelmed me so I recruited my two girlfriends and we were currently peeling strips of orange rooster-covered wallpaper off my kitchen wall—a tedious task that was going three times faster than when I worked alone.

“My realtor asked me out,” I announced, as I removed an impressively large strip of wallpaper (three roosters-worth).

Kristen let out a whistle as she defiled the poultry on the adjacent wall. “Guess he wanted more than a commission, huh?”

I wrinkled my nose. “Well, a commission is all he’s getting. I turned him down.”

“Is this the guy, Kaitlin?” Ginger gestured to the calendar-magnet on my fridge, which included a glamour shot of my realtor, Chase McDermott. “Why would you say no to this fine specimen of a man? Just looking at him makes me want to buy real estate. Not that I can afford it.”

“Oh, I hear you,” I said, picking at a stubborn scrap of wallpaper that didn’t want to come off. “If my dad hadn’t given me the down payment, I’d still be renting, too.”

Ginger rubbed her chin. “How’d you get your dad to pony up the cash?”

Shrugging, I said, “He offered, so I accepted. We don’t really go into details about things in my family. It’s all very polite and surface-like. But, I don’t know, maybe he’s trying to make up for divorcing my mom, moving to Seattle, and being absent most of my life.”

“Darn.” Ginger went back to scratching at her portion of wall. “My parents are still married so I’m out of luck.”

I made a frowny face and pursed my lips. “Poor you.”

“Back to Chase McDermott.” Ginger gestured toward his picture. “H. O. T.”

Kristen hummed her approval, too.

I flashed Ginger a wry smile. “Feel free to take down his number and call him.”

She twisted her long, dark hair around her finger, and seemed to think about it a moment. “He likes you, not me. It’s been months since you dumped your loser ex. Time to get back in the saddle, girl.”

I shook my head. “I’m not into horseback riding anymore.”

Ginger huffed, then turned to Kristen. “You’re a family therapist. Talk some sense into her.”

Ugh. They were pushing me to date—again. My stomach knotted as I realized I’d brought this on myself by mentioning Chase. Not smart, Kaitlin. Not smart.

Kristen glanced my way, then surprised me by shrugging. “If Kaitlin doesn’t want to date Chase McDermott, the most gorgeous man to walk the planet—after Ethan, of course—then that’s her choice, and we should respect that.”

Surprised, the knots in my belly loosened. “Thank you.”

Kristen flicked a piece of paper off her sponge, then lifted her lashes. “Although it does seem like an awful waste. It’s not like there’s something horrifyingly wrong with him, right? He doesn’t smell? Or pick his teeth with his fingernail?”